U.S. Medicine, Issue May 2002
Pentagon Medics Remember Sept. 11 – Matt Pueschel
WASHINGTON-Although it’s been eight months since last September’s terrorist attacks, for many of the medical personnel on duty that "horrific day" at the Pentagon, the memory of their experience is "permanently etched" in their minds, according to Maryann Ramos, MPH, an occupational health certified physician assistant for the Pentagon’s Civilian Employees Health Service (CEHS).
Ramos was the physician assistant pictured comforting another Pentagon worker on Sept. 11 in a prominent cover photo in the January issue of U.S. MEDICINE. Taken by an Army photographer, the photo did not carry the names of the pair at the time, but fortunately a colleague of Ramos’s at the Pentagon later recognized her when she saw a copy of the newspaper. The worker informed Ramos, who then contacted U.S. MEDICINE and tracked down the man in the photo whom she helped that day. "I’d like to find out his name and shake his hand," she wrote in an email to U.S. MEDICINE in January.
[…] As victims staggered from the building, Ramos couldn’t tell what had wrought the destruction. There were no signs of a plane. "All I could see was a giant hole in the building," she said. "I thought it was a Piper cub [small plane]. I found a couple little, thin pieces of twisted aluminum, that’s all, on the ground. I gave it to the FBI. There were lots of flames at the top, a black hole and smoke."
Although the courage and determination of the medics helped carry them through the ordeal, Ramos said they had also taken part in a mass casualty training exercise at the Pentagon eight months prior to Sept. 11. That exercise involved a simulation of a plane flying off course that struck the Pentagon.
It took some time before Ramos, Maj. Leibner and others were able to talk openly of their experiences that day. "We went to several debriefings," Ramos said.
"Nothing’s the same there," Maj. Leibner said of the Pentagon. "Priorities have changed."
Meanwhile, construction is ahead of schedule to repair the damage done to the Pentagon, and a dedication ceremony is planned for the one-year anniversary date of the attack. Ramos also said some workers have started a little memorial on the helipad near the crash site.